The Value of Eco Fashion Week

Visually stunning – each collection of designer pieces had a story to tell; the vibrations were high, and bright with love. Sustainable fashion is certainly on the same level as haute couture, in regards to the skill and love needed to create one piece, such as the fascinating collections seen at this years’ EcoFashion Week, held in Seattle’s Canvas Event Space.


Although any Fashion Week event will be a feast for the eyes, it is important to emphasize what inspires these eco designers to speak through their art, and what continues to ground their inspiration. Eco Bling (showing for the first time) creator Katie Johnston added to the magic by constructing pieces out of everything including her kitchen sink (I had to buy a pair of pallet earrings – each sale plants a tree!). Elephantasia (also exhibiting for the first time at EFW), and their talented team added to the conversation, as per their motto – “Where fashion meets conversation”, with a VIP party and live painting by Matt Shapira.

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What still sets sustainable fashion apart from conventional fashion is simply that sustainable fashion is NOT conventional, during a time in our history when it is desperately needed to be the norm. There are infinite benefits to what sustainable fashion can do for the world, and the consumer will often enjoy a much higher quality of fabric and stitching, as they would with a conventional, luxury fashion label. Fashion is always an investment when you do not want to contribute to the fast fashion monster (for those wanting more information regarding fast fashion, please read an interview with Nicole Bridger – who also exhibited her collection at EFW this year, in Pacific Rim Magazine by a fellow Langara student, Rebecca Van Dop), and those who enjoy high fashion (conventional OR eco) will tell you that it is less likely that their clothing will end up in the landfill, because it is not made to be consumed quickly, for cheap, by as many people as possible.

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What I hope Eco Fashion Week inspires in people is the knowledge that they can create their own pieces, donate and trade, and that it is no longer practical or ethical to buy brand new clothing from chemical spewing, low – paying factories miles and miles away.

What we call eco friendly fashion now WAS the norm in western cultures prior to the industrial revolution – it only made sense to “shop local”, reuse every piece of material, and to have items that were going to last for potentially generations; nobody is going to be handing down their favourite Forever21 blouse to their granddaughter, because they’re not supposed to – they are to buy six more the next time the store is stocked, and toss them out, too (after, like, three washes- come on!). In many cultures, it is still the norm to reuse all materials and to create locally, simply because their economy only allows that – but sustainable clothing is readily available, unlike here in Vancouver, for example. We are so blessed, however,  to have so many donated clothes at our reach; Value Village never runs out. The 8.1 Challenge – where up and coming designers created pieces from 8.1lbs of material from Value Village, showcased on November 3rd at Canvas, was one beautiful example of skill, creativity, and possibility.

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I understand that I am already sounding a bit preachy, forgive me – the ignorance/denial/negligence of consumers and manufacturers is frustrating to me, as a person who is aware of the impact that clothing production has on land, water, people and animals. I’m not alone.

There are so many factors in what it means to be sustainable. To be as general as possible: it is anything that depletes and destroys, and cannot be maintained. Planting a tree for each no – waste piece sold (EcoBling); educating people about the ivory trade, and featuring designers like Shriti Pratap who use alternative silkworm material where the worm is unharmed (Elephantasia); traditionally hand dying shirts with wax prints and stencils (Canting Hijau); incorporating traditional methods in recycled clothing, from a culture with a rich history in color, print, and crocheting (Henry Wanjala) – all are, in one way or another, forms of sustainable manufacturing. The most practical thing to do is recycle the clothing we already have.

Clothes are constantly being thrown out; even if all unethical clothing manufacturing were to cease right now, it would take years and years before all clothing was recycled into new pieces. Less harmful chemicals are used with recycled clothing, and seamstresses can keep their jobs. Autonomy is sustainable and builds community and micro – economies, so new designers are encouraged to keep creating.

Sustainability in its simplest form – is creation and growth from what can easily be restored or renewed, like a fruit from a tree. Doesn’t your outfit from Value Village taste just so much better now? 🙂

Elephantasia:

headerphotoHaving featured designers like Alex S. Yu in the past, the obvious goal of Elephantasia is to encourage chic innovation – which goes hand in hand with awareness and sustainability. Shriti Pratap’s one piece and comfortable dress designs that were exhibited (alongside the art of Matt Shapira) enchanted me, the elephant inspired art was both calming and inspiring. The intricacy of the jeweled embroidery on one piece worn by Claudia Lorena was so beautiful that I felt I was making eye contact with the magic elephant Shriti had channeled. Ronee also explained (while gracefully modelling) the piece she wore – made from the cocoons of silkworms, which gave the material a silky lightness, and a weaved cotton texture, that the artwork depicted on the piece was that of two elephants meeting and deciding whether they were going to be mates forever. All in all, they made me feel close to the nature of elephants and all other animals – the humanity of them, so to speak. The supporters and presenters of Elephantasia are: A-DOT, Eco-Fashion-Week, The African Wildlife Foundation, World Elephant Day and National Geographic’s NOVICA.

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EcoBling:

Inspired by the need to help people and the world (or rather, “by hope and good people”), EcoBling was founded and is doing just that. Katie, the founder and CEO of the Australian company, explained to me the beautiful pieces made from the earthquake rubble in Nepal. Among this project, EcoBling supports many others. The beautiful upcycled pieces on models with flowing, simple white gowns dancing down the runway on November 2nd – reminded me of angels adorned in holy jewellery. I find that image extremely appropriate. 🙂

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As I have mentioned, a tree is planted for each piece sold – and the sales also support social enterprise development in disaster stricken areas of the world, EcoBling further supports sustainable development by creating production of their jewellery in those areas. All I have to say is thank you, EcoBling – keep going!

(**note: Canada has yet to stock EcoBling accessories- can someone get on that?)


Pictures taken by Katarzyna Krol-Dusza
Pictures edited by Martina Ondrasekova

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